29 August, 2010

Vacation week 4d: Croatia

It's a godforsaken gray, concrete, bullet-ridden hellhole.

This was M's cousin's exact description of Zagreb, the city where he and his family will be stuck living for at least 3 years. Not exactly a vote of confidence, but we wanted to see it anyway.

We spent a fantastic vacation in Istria back in 2007, and after spending so much time in Moscow, "gray, concrete and bullet-ridden" would probably feel like a homecoming!

So anyway, we went in with pretty low expectations and ended up being pleasantly surprised! Zagreb has some really interesting historic buildings, lots of greenery, is extremely walkable and the people were very friendly!

The historic center is quite small. We stopped off at the tourist information center where we were given a map, a handful of brochures and a cheery "Have a nice stay!".

The necktie was invented here as a reference to scarves that the Croats wore around their necks during the 30 Years' War in the 17th century. And some guy named Slavoljub Penkala invented the ballpoint pen here however long ago. Of course, with a name like Slavoljub he was destined for greatness anyway, wasn't he?! (That or he was destined for incarceration. Personally I'm glad he took the high road and invented the pen....)

The V boy ice cream rating for this city: 5 stars! Even M and I were able to partake in the ice cream action this time since there were 5 (count em, FIVE) different sugar-free varieties to choose from!

We had a great time wandering around exploring the city and then ate a really enjoyable dinner out on M's cousin's balcony. We were blessed with great weather, good Croatian wine, lively conversation and a really gratifying trip!

***Apparently M's cousin and I have very different tastes because he lived in Spain for 8 years and *loved* it. I spent a very trying week there once: had a traumatic run-in with a taxi driver and was ripped off in almost every transaction I made! That was my idea of a hellhole! NO ME GUSTO!!!


Goofball said...

I think you should give Spain another try on one of your huge gypsy tours :p

I would expect Zagreb to be pleasant, but don't ask me why...never been there :p

Betsy said...

No thanks! Life's too short! ;-)

I'd much rather explore the Baltic States! Now if I can only convince my husband...

I bet you'd like Zagreb-- please go visit and blog about it so that I can enjoy it vicariously with you!

anno said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anno said...

My brother-in-law and his wife lead a month-long theater workshop in Zagreb each summer, and the stories they tell on their return -- maybe especially the one where they went to see Mamma Mia in the theater, and everybody there sang along with all the songs! -- always make me wish to visit myself. Maybe it's just your ice cream rating, but this post confirms my desire.

Have always dreamed, though, of a long vacation in Spain... something about those orange groves and olives against all that glorious Mediterranean blue. Someday...

Betsy said...

See, your description makes Spain sound so appealing! But when I think back on my trip I just remember the scary cab driver, the constant incorrect change, the exhaust and that everything was closed in the moments that I was most ravenous!

Maybe you and Goofball are right, though. Maybe that was just a fluke and I should try to visit again sometime.

Maybe I could be your sherpa when you go?

Goofball said...

ah come on, you can't write off Spain because of change and a cab driver & closed offices? Those are things you experience anywhere in the Mediterrean ??

How about the food: fresh cold gazpacho & churros?

How about the architecture: Gaudi in Barcelone, the morish influences in Granada, the solid fortresses on top of the hills, the museums of Miró & Dali & ....?

How about the rough mountains in Galicia home of bagpipe music and pelgrims on their way to Compostella?

How about huge sandy beaches and very slowly descending sealevels where your kids & dog can play for hours in the water, learn surfing/scuba diving/ ....

coastal areas are very tourist overloaded and little harbors with terraces or beaches etc are not unique to Spain but are still very enjoyable to hang out.

But it's a big country so rather versatile so ...worthwile to discover, no?

Betsy said...

No, you're right. I was only (partially) joking. Spain was just one of those places where I expected people to be friendly and things to work well and when things kept going wrong I was doubly disappointed.

There are so many other places I haven't seen yet, too, though, so it's just not at the top of my list right now.

Betsy said...

Oh, and I'm sure you're right that those sort of things happen everywhere in the Mediterranean, (or the world, for that matter) but for some reason they only ever happened to me in Spain! People were so rude and that thing about short-changing me-- I could forgive it if it happened once, but it happened repeatedly. You give them a EUR 20 and get change back for a EUR 5! It was so annoying!

(and completely in contrast to my experience in Turkey where I kept getting confused by the Lira. Had more than one instance where I'd given WAY too much money and the shop keeper / taxi driver called me on it.)

Goofball said...

you got me thinking about my intereactions with the Spanish...despite having been almost 10 times in Spain I can't recall much interaction since I was mainly a kid :D

when I compare with the region you visit now, I also think Spain is much much dryer and therefore less green.

nevertheless you've awakened a lot of childhood vacation memories nostalgia for me now....sorry I'm off on a boulevard with palm trees now.

Betsy said...

Nah. I know lots of people who've had great vacations in Spain. And our neighbors are Spanish and they're wonderful. I think it was just one of those ill-fated vacations that went wrong at every turn. (Kind of like our dysentery experience in Egypt.) Which is unfortunate, but you're right-- I shouldn't let it color my whole perception of Spain...

Betsy said...

PS: Coincidentally, M will be in Madrid next week for business from Monday through Thursday! ;-)

I just mentioned this virtual conversation to him and he said that he's been to Spain 3 times and has never had a problem. So there you go!